Herts & Bucks Wing

  Adventure Training Group


A Cadet's report on a BCC

A few weekends ago 9 Air Cadets and myself went canoeing along the River Thames.  Everybody eagerly waited to find out more information about the course that we shall be doing.  We had two instructors with us. They were very helpful and informative the whole weekend. All of the cadets got along with the instructors because they let us have fun but also kept us under control. They were also very approachable and you could ask them anything about canoeing and the course and they would give you as much advice as they possibly could. That put everybody at ease, although everybody was very eager to start the course. 

On the first day we were given a talk on canoeing, the equipment and why and how to use the equipment properly. This was a very important talk. We had to listen all the time or we might miss a very important piece of information. But, more importantly all of the cadets and I found out the difference between a canoe and a kayak!

When the instructors had finished talking to us about equipment we drove to RAF Halton to use the swimming pool. It was very reassuring to find out that we would get time to practise basic canoe drills in a pool and that we weren’t just going to be put into the Thames not knowing what to do.  In the pool we were split into groups of two to an instructor.  This provided us with a good learning environment and it would be easier for the instructors to find our weaknesses and how to conquer them. 

First of all we were taught how to get in and out of our canoe properly.  The next thing that we were taught was the most important thing and it was very important that we knew how to do it under pressure; this was capsizing.  We were taught that when we were underwater we had to put our head forward and bang on the top of the canoe 3 times to get peoples attention. Then, we had to wave our arms along the side of the canoe to check if there is a canoe near by. When we are out of the canoe you have to shout ‘Capsize’ as loud as you possibly can. This gets your breathing regular again. The first time some of us did this we just panicked and pulled our splash board and got out of the canoe as soon as possible. When the group had conquered the capsize drill we were taught other things such as an Eskimo rescue.  This is why when you capsize you have to wave your arms on the side of your canoe to see if another canoe is near. Then, the rescuing canoe comes in at an angle and brushes up against the side of the capsized canoe. Then, the person who has capsized pulls up on to the tip of the rescuing canoe and then they push down. This allows the capsized canoe to turn to the surface.  It takes a lot of practise. 

When we had finished our time in the swimming pool we were given the opportunity to practise anything that we were unsure of. This meant that everybody was very comfortable and oozing with tension for the next day. When we arrived back at the squadron we were given a debrief and extra information about the next day. We then had to get all of our equipment ready for an early rise the following morning. 

The next morning we woke up at about 7am and we had to leave the squadron at 8am to get to the River Thames. We had to check all of our equipment and put it onto the mini bus.  We arrived at the Thames fairly quickly and had to unload all of the canoes and paddles.  After we had done that we were able to get changed into our wetsuits and various other pieces of equipment.  When we were all changed into our canoeing garments we had a last safety check and the instructors talked to us again. It was vital that the instructors knew that all 10 cadets were okay. When we were in the water we were told to paddle up to a certain point then we shall stop and talk over some techniques. The weather was lovely.  We had to keep topping up our sun cream and the instructors made sure that everyone did.  We canoed for a bit then stopped and did various games in our canoes. This was a really fun way of splitting up the day. The instructors made it such fun! We then did some more canoeing and we stopped for a drink. It was very important that we kept hydrated. At this point we had been canoeing for a couple of hours.

When we got back on the water everybody was eager to carry on. We did some more canoeing and then some more games. Surprisingly, there were not as many capsizes as we thought.  We then stopped for lunch. This was a few kilometres up the Thames.  After we ate lunch we were allowed to go swimming in the Thames.  After we had gone swimming some of the instructors taught us various exercises with our paddle to stop cramps that we had in our arms and legs.  After lunch all of the cadets were refreshed and ready to go again. The journey back was not as long as the journey there because on the way up we were against the current. We also stopped and did various games on the way back to break up the trip back. This made people more relaxed and also gave the team time to bond with each other. 

 When we arrived back at the start we packed up all of our canoes and then had a nice long-awaited and well deserved shower. After our shower we then had a debrief of the whole weekend. This was a chance for the cadets to give their opinion on the weekend. 

I’m very happy to say that all comments that were made were positive. On behalf of all of the cadets that took part we would like to say a big Thank you to all of the instructors that made this weekend possible.  We all had a fantastic time and I’m sure that we will be putting our names down on other canoe courses that come up.

By Jessica Beynon aged 15

1113 (Berkhamsted) Sqn ATC

      Web site by: Flt Lt Geoff Bowles RAFVR(T), ML(S), SPA                                                            This page last updated on 23 November 2003